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Kakhovska HPP Dam Breach Amplifies Russia-Ukraine Conflict

By Vusala Abbasova June 9, 2023

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A vital component of the Kakhovska HPP, the dam played a crucial role in regulating the annual flow of the Dnipro River, facilitating power supply, irrigation, and water provision to arid regions in southern Ukraine, and supporting navigation from Kherson to Zaporizhzhia.

Kakhovska hydroelectric power plant (HPP) dam breach has further escalated the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, with each blaming the other for the damage.

On June 6, a massive breach in the Kakhovska HPP dam led to an uncontrolled release of water.

A vital component of the Kakhovska HPP, the dam played a crucial role in regulating the annual flow of the Dnipro River, facilitating power supply, irrigation, and water provision to arid regions in southern Ukraine, and supporting navigation from Kherson to Zaporizhzhia.

Alexander Prokudin, Head of the Military Administration of the Kherson Region, said approximately 1,700 individuals were evacuated. Meanwhile, Russia-installed officials on the other side of the river said 1,200 people were safely relocated.

Officials said more than 40,000 people – 17,000 in Ukraine-controlled territory west of the Dnipro and 25,000 in Russia-controlled east – urgently need to evacuate.

Ukraine blamed the breach on Russia, claiming that Russian forces mined the dam. They also accused Moscow of neglecting the flood relief operations on eastern riverbank.

Russia, however, claimed that the damage was a result of Ukrainian shelling. President Vladimir Putin condemned the incident as a "barbaric act" during a phone conversation with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The situation was also discussed at the UN Security Council meeting called on Moscow’s request. Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, claimed that a campaign to cast doubt on Moscow as the only one responsible for the incident had started even before all the incident's specifics were clear.

The construction of the Kakhovska HPP, a 30-meter-tall and 3.2-km-long plant, started under Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and was completed under Nikita Khrushchev.

The dam spans the Dnipro River, which currently serves as the frontline between Russian and Ukrainian forces. The creation of the Kakhovska reservoir, covering an area of 2,155 square kilometers, resulted in the displacement of approximately 37,000 people from their homes during the Soviet era.

Since Russian President Vladimir Putin initiated what he referred to as a “special military operation” in Ukraine, the city of Kherson has faced numerous challenges. Russian troops took over Kherson, which is a vital port city in southern Ukraine located above the delta of the Dnipro River, which flows into the Black Sea. In November 2022, Ukrainian forces recaptured the city.

Ukraine and Russia have been at odds since the 2014 crisis in Ukraine’s southern and eastern regions. Ukraine accuses Russia of annexing the Crimean Peninsula – a territory that extends into the Black Sea – and other southeastern regions of Ukraine.

The Moscow-backed referendum held in March 2014 allegedly revealed that over 90 percent of Crimea's residents wanted the peninsula to be under Russian control. However, the vote was declared illegitimate by Ukraine, Western countries and the United Nations.